Matthew 4:12

John the Baptist in Prison, Visited by Salomé by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1591–1666

Today I read the verse: “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee,” Matthew 4:12, as part of my daily Bible reading and it brought to mind an incident back in July 1966.

Dr Paisley, Rev John Wylie and I had just begun our three month prison sentence. It was the second morning of us being together, Dr Paisley being arrested on the Wednesday as he went to his prayer meeting and John and I the next day Thursday, 21st July. I had spent a night in a police cell because I was arrested too late in the evening to be admitted to Crumlin Road prison. Early on the Friday morning, I was taken to prison and duly processed and finally met up with my two companions.

On Saturday morning, John disclosed, as we met for a short time of prayer in his cell, that the evening before, just before the light in his cell was put out, he read from his Bible and the above verse was part of his reading. He excitedly disclosed this wonderful providence how that the Lord indicated to him that He knew all about his imprisonment even as He knew about the cruel incarceration of John the Baptist!

As John related his account of his reading of the verse and the encouragement it was to him, it occurred to me  (I always had an interest in the meaning of names) that ‘Ian’ and ‘Ivan’, were the Scottish Gaelic and the Russian forms of ‘John’. That set us all to rejoicing at this significant and merciful word from the Lord!

The name ‘John’ is of Hebrew origin and carries the meaning of ‘Jehovah is gracious’!

Dr Ian Paisley (centre) Rev John Wylie (right) and Rev Ivan Foster (left), several years after their release from prison, together again, waiting to board a flight at an airport.

As I look back over the 58 years since that incident, I see nothing but God’s graciousness to me!

I’m rejoicing night and day
As I walk the narrow way,
For the hand of God in all my life I see;
And the reason of my bliss,
Yes, the secret all is this:
That the Comforter abides with me.

He abides, He abides;
Hallelujah, He abides with me!
I’m rejoicing night and day
As I walk the narrow way,
For the Comforter abides with me.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster